By a way of introduction, a vibrant press is an asset to any country practising democracy. Little wonder the media is referred to as the fourth estate of the realm.
It’s against the foregoing therefore that members of the fourth estate as seekers and revealers of truth to the general members of the public must always be above board, ethical, impartial and objective in the course of information dissemination and management.
Much as the conventional media try to keep to the basic tenets of journalism at all times, though there are occasional slips, it is important at this juncture to say that the advent of the social media, citizen journalism and digital media, which are largely unregulated, has led to a continuous upsurge in the peddling of fake news and libellous publications against public office holders in the country. It’s a growing menace that keeps stripping the country’s media of its credibility.
One of such notorious peddlers of fake news and purveyor of exclusive libellous publications is one Jackson Ude. His latest prime target is Vice President Yemi Osinbajo whom he accused in one of his recent mendacious publications on his junk site- pointblanknews- of collecting a bribe of N4b from the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
What is clear about Ude is that he could easily have been hired to smear the VP. He was on the media team of the Jonathan administration working under Dr. Doyin Okupe. He is also known as one of the key architects of the Dubai strategy of the PDP designed for the 2019 presidential election. Many from that camp have not forgiven the VP for the robust campaign he put up in 2015 after his nomination by then General Buhari changed the 2015 presidential election dynamics. For them to now imagine that Osinbajo’s profile is rising ahead of 2023, it is not difficult to establish their motivation to do any and everything possible to halt his ascendancy.
So deploying his usual modus operandi, Ude said he obtained an imaginary exclusive from an anonymous source privy to the proceedings of the ongoing investigation of Magu over allegations of corruption by the Justice Ayo Salami-led presidential panel wherein Magu claimed he gifted Professor Osinbajo N4b.
The VP’s Office dismissed the allegation in a statement by his media advisor, Laolu Akande, describing Ude’s publication as a lie from the pit of hell. The VP’S lawyers equally called on the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, through a petition by his Chief Taiwo Osipitan, SAN to investigate the allegation with a view to prosecuting the notorious fugitive and merchant of falsehood for criminal defamation of character.
Luckily for the VP, who is known to be above board in all his dealings, either as a private person or as a public office holder, Magu, after his release from detention, had come out to debunk the allegation, emphasizing that at no time did he ever tell the panel or even mention it in written submissions to the panel that he gave the VP N4b. He added that such an issue was not even discussed at the Salami Panel.
Ude again was caught in the web of his infantile and criminal lies when he alleged bold facedly that Kiki Osinbajo bought a property in Wuse, Abuja for the sum of N800m, insisting that such amount could only be from the proceeds of corruption linked to her father. Well, these days, lies don’t travel far again before being overtaken by truth. The landlord of the property, Dr Aliyu Musa, has come out to debunk such. Dr Musa said anyone could go verify the ownership of the property with AGIS and the FCT. It turned out that Kiki, the VP’s daughter, is a tenant in the said property who has just renewed her rent for one more year in May 2020.
But did Ude just happen on us? No. He has a history of weaving lies under the guise of publishing exclusives of alleged fraudulent practices to blackmail public officeholders. He almost ruined the hard-earned reputation of former Finance Minister, Dr(Mrs) Okonjo-Iweala, when he asserted that the woman bought a property in Maitama Abuja worth N1.2b which were proceeds of a corrupt deal. He also accused Iweala of awarding contracts amounting to $50m to her brother.
Okonjo Iweala sued him, his medium and partner in crime in order to prove her innocence regarding the allegation which she recalled, years later, really traumatized her to the point of almost losing faith in public leadership in the country. For the entire duration of the litigation, Ude never showed up nor was he represented by a counsel until the judge ruled against him and awarded damages of N200m against him. Till this moment, Ude has not paid the money nor appealed the judgement. He has been a permanent fugitive, hiding under the anonymity of online publication to blackmail and tarnish the reputation of his targets while marooning away somewhere in New York, United States of America.
There is no gainsaying the obvious that VP Osinbajo has come under serial smear campaigns in recent times. The purport of the intermittent falsehood woven around his person is to create a wedge between him and his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari and rubbish him ahead of the 2023 presidential election. Meanwhile, those who are conversant with the VP know that he is the least of ambitious men and that his cardinal focus at the moment is to see how he can help the President actualize his social contract with the people of Nigeria before the expiration of their second term tenure in 2023.
Again, the likes of Ude and his notorious gang neck-deep in vending fake news and publishing falsehood provide a genuine ground for the regulation of online journalism in the country and malicious usage of social media for character assassination and personality defilement. The advocacy is ongoing, though there are strong concerns that politicians may use it to gag free press and freedom of expressions.
Sadly, there are quite a few youths who are mostly the vendors of falsehood and enablers of characters like Ude who will never use the social media for factual analysis, informed commentary, agenda-setting, e.t.c as admonished by the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, but rather deploy it for promoting ethnic hatred, blackmail, cyberstalking, character assassination, among other odious vices.